Between the Lines — Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the US 'War on Terror'
Edited by Tikva Honig-Parnass & Toufi Haddad
Haymarket Books, 2007
406 pages, US$17
Between the Lines — Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the US "War on Terror" is a powerful compilation of articles relating the story of the al-Aqsa Intifada. That serves as the main theme for the book, "the continuation of the Zionist colonial project, which has aspired to ... control all of historic Palestine with the full backing of US imperialism".
This relationship is essentially a partnership, not Israel controlling the US Congress, or the US manipulating Israel, but a more cooperative partnership. Perhaps not of equals of power in a military-economic sense, but certainly equals of ideology.
A strong sub-theme of the book concerns the weakening power of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the rise of Hamas. The authors are quite harsh in their treatment of Fatah, describing it as becoming more and more elitist, riven with internal dissent and corruption, and more and more seen as a tool of the Israeli occupiers.
The decline of Fatah is accompanied by the rise of Hamas, partly as a result of strong organisational skills and ideology, but also because the Palestinians see it as a more reliable alternative to Fatah and not compromised through association with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Israeli politics.
Other themes accompany these two main strands. One is the transition of the Israeli Labour Party into a partner for the Zionist right (Likud) project of redeeming "Eretz Israel" (Greater Israel)and its longer-term goal of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The book also covers Israel's move to neoliberal economic policies that led inevitably to a larger income gap, lower wages, the use of guest labour (rather than the rebellious Palestinians or the poorer Mizrahi Jews from the African diaspora), and a general deterioration of social services for the poor (the Mizrahi and "Arab Israelis") and the increase in wealth of the Israeli elites.
The book also looks at the Allon Plan and actions to assist with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine — the subtext to political manipulations through the "peace" process, Camp David, "disengagement", "convergence", and on into the "war on terror". The idea of a "demographic danger" from Palestinians is used politically as a rallying point within Israel.
There are numerous substantiated events and ideas that support the editors and authors viewpoint very strongly. The articles read sequentially, as published in Between the Lines in its brief existence in Jerusalem during the Intifada, followed by additional essays on more recent events, significantly the Hamas electoral success and the Hezbollah military success in Lebanon in 2006.
Azmi Bishara, the Palestinian member of the Knesset (parliament) who has recently been charged with accusations against the Israeli state, is well represented throughout the book.
While the whole text is powerful, the final sections on the realisation of the Allon Plan disguised under the freedom provided by the "war on terror" and the new quests for "peace" on Israel's terms only ("we have no partner") leaves the reader with understandably scary imaginative scenarios.
Those scenarios include possible attacks on Iran and another attack against Lebanon and Syria, using different tactics from the failed war of 2006. Above all for Palestine, there is and will be a sustained increase of aggressiveness from the IDF in creating conditions for the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, while acting militarily against the Gaza strip in its bantustan style prison camp formation.
Between the Lines begins with a well-written introduction serving as a concise historical summary of events leading up to the al-Aqsa Intifada. That section alone deserves to be mass-marketed for its clarity and brevity. Later, the chapters follow in time-sequenced progression.
While there are details of the actual conflict itself, much of the narrative discusses the politics and behind the scenes working of the various members of the conflict.
The closing chapters concentrate on the "disengagement" locally, and the preparations for a broader conflict regionally.
The disengagement and the subsequent invasive tactics are rationalised by Silvan Shalom, the Israeli Foreign Minister in former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud government as part of the "global battle against this terrorism ... That's why we should do everything we can, because we are protecting our people fighting against this global phenomenon that is threatening the entire world, and all the democratic countries."
This is the perfect political answer to support continued Israeli and US terrorism, making the aggressor and perpetrator into the victim, turning the victim into the aggressor. Once again the Western press is noted for its complicity: "The mileage this line of justification has received in the Western press is mind-boggling, especially considering the nature of the powers that promote it (the Zionist movement and US ruling classes)."
While Israel sought to "convey the unequivocal message" that disengagement was a result of "Israel's position of strength" it is also noted "if not for the resistance, Israel would never have considered disengaging from Gaza in the first place". Ultimately, "while continuing to maintain full control over its [Gaza's] land, air, and seas, Israel effectively imposed a containment regime of the Strip".
At the same time it is really "a tactical redeployment to more effective positions of control ... not unprecedented in Israeli policy" that allows more settlement and military engagements in the West Bank.
The final section looks at the broader conflict with the unsuccessful attacks on Lebanon and the election of Hamas in 2006.
For Lebanon, an unnamed Israeli minister explained that their desire was "to turn Lebanon into a wasteland. After that, things will be good." The Israeli government is supported by the US as usual, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claiming, "that Israel's catastrophic assault on Lebanon embodied the 'birth pangs of the new Middle East'."
Apart from the defeat of Fatah politically, the Hamas victory represents "the pinnacle of the mass popular movement that began with the Al Aqsa Intifada, to definitively displace the Oslo process paradigm and its infectious repercussions upon the Palestinian national movement".
Part of this was because "Hamas unapologetically preserved and implemented, at times, the Palestinian right to resist, using force as a political tool". This of course fits well within the UN Charter on occupation and defensive war.
The authors' conclusion, if it is as prescient as their writing was during the Intifada, reveals a cauldron set to explode: "The stakes have risen to such a level that it is not irrational to preclude, in both the near and distant future, the possibility of accelerated ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their lands, the ignition of expanded regional wars, and the possible use of nonconventional weaponry."
A fully engaging book, an intense read, Between the Lines provides a strong and comprehensible analysis of the al-Aqsa Intifada, its consequences, and probable future developments. Along with the many other authors who have developed similar themes (Ilan Pappe, Ramzy Baroud, Tanya Reinhart, Jonathan Cook, Mishal and Sela) this story expands the library of information and consciousness concerning the occupation and ethnic cleansing that is the story of Palestine.
[Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicle. This article is an edited version of the review first published at <http://www.palestinechronicle.com>]